August 8, 2018 / 2:32 PM / 2 months ago

'Out of Hope': Indonesia quake victims still wait for help

GUMANTAR, Indonesia (Reuters) - Moments after fleeing their home, dodging falling tiles and shattering glass, Indonesian farmer Haji Ruslan and his family stood in a field opposite and watched the house collapse.

Rescue team members prepare to find people trapped inside a mosque after an earthquake hit on Sunday in Pemenang, Lombok Island, Indonesia, August 8, 2018. REUTERS/Beawiharta

They survived, unlike 40 others in the area who residents say perished in Sunday’s 6.9-magnitude earthquake, but it is hard to feel fortunate as they wait for government help.

“What is most important is that we’re alive. But we are out of hope and we are out of energy,” Ruslan said as his wife rummaged through the ruins to recover anything usable, such as ground mats, pillows, and kitchenware.

The earthquake, which killed more than 130 people and drove thousands of tourists to leave, was the worst on record to hit the holiday island of Lombok. Just a week earlier another quake, of magnitude 6.4, rocked the same area, killing 17 people.

The people of Gumantar, a rural hamlet surrounded by fields of corn and rice, rely on the generosity of family and friends from the rest of the island, as well as volunteer groups, to deliver essentials such as medicines, rice, instant noodles, and water.

Like thousands living in the farmland and hills of northern Lombok, they camp out under flimsy tarpaulin tents, too rattled by the huge quake and continuing aftershocks to sleep indoors. Most have nothing to return to, anyway.

A woman carries valuable goods from the ruins of her house at Kayangan district after earthquake hit on Sunday in North Lombok, Indonesia, August 7, 2018. REUTERS/Beawiharta

The one-lane road that winds through Gumantar, about 30 minutes’ drive east of the quake’s epicenter, is lined with the rubble of houses, village halls and schools.

Toppled electricity poles have left villagers without power or mobile phone reception to communicate with emergency response teams or relatives. Water pipes poke out of the ground, cracked and leaking from the force of the quake.

Women sit in tents by the roads, trying to ration out instant noodles and water. Playgrounds are a mess of twisted metal so children who would otherwise be in school chase each other around the fields and play with chickens.

At night, portable generators power a few light bulbs shared among hundreds of evacuees.

Residents speak of neighbors and family members who died in the disaster, but there is little emotion in their voices. Many remain in shock.

“It’s like being in a dream. I can’t believe this has happened and everything is gone,” said Suniati, who goes by one name. “The community is still feeling the trauma of the earthquake and now the aftershocks.”

Some residents, like Ruslan, are already to clear up the debris with their bare hands. Other men in the village use sledgehammers and ropes to bring down partially toppled walls so construction can eventually start anew. Many say they need more assistance to rebuild their homes and lives.

“We don’t know how to start over in the future and we hope someone will help us,” Ruslan said.

Editing by John Chalmers and Tom Allard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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